Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The global number of new reported cases declined for a fifth straight week.

A winter storm is slowing the vaccine rollout across the U.S.

South Africa will pass along its AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the African Union after a disappointing result against a virus variant.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and vaccines in development.

Testing vaccines in teenagers

When it comes to reaching herd immunity, vaccinated teenagers are crucial. But that doesn’t mean developing a vaccine that works for teens is easy.

While teenagers don’t fall as severely ill as often as adults, they become infected at almost twice the rate of younger children. Research also suggests that they can spread the virus widely — to each other and to older family members — because they are often asymptomatic and casual about social distancing.

So far, the vaccines authorized in the U.S. are only for adults, and enrolling teenagers in clinical trials has presented its own challenges. Adolescents can struggle to comply with the strict rules of a clinical study, which requires keeping a symptom diary and showing up to multiple appointments. And smaller studies, to minimize the potential risk to minors, can result in slower turnaround times.

Researchers must also obtain a parent’s consent or permission. Information sessions for each can be protracted and painstaking. Objection by either child or parent terminates the application. And researchers often caution young subjects to keep their participation off social media, because vaccine disinformation and online personal attacks are so widespread.

Pfizer’s trial for children ages 12 through 15 is fully enrolled, and the company expects results in the first quarter of this year, which it will then submit to the Food and Drug Administration for review. Moderna is still recruiting for its adolescent trials, with data anticipated sometime this summer.

The pandemic has upended life for many teens — shutting down in-person school, sports and socializing — and experts are warning of a “mental health pandemic” among young adults in isolation that has pushed many to despair. Some children say signing up for trials is a way to fight back.

Sam, 12, who entered the Pfizer trial at Cincinnati Children’s hospital, said he wanted to participate “because it would be helping science and beat the pandemic.”

He added, “And it was my way of saying thank you to the frontline workers who are keeping us healthy.”

It wasn’t a painless decision. After his second shot, Sam had a throbbing headache, chills and a low-grade fever. His mother said she felt guilty for letting him participate, and she apologized to him. Sam was mystified by her reaction. “I’m so happy,” he replied. “This means I got the real thing!”

A deadly syndrome: About 2,060 children have also contracted a dangerous rare condition related to the coronavirus, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which can shut down the heart and other organs. Doctors across the country say they are seeing a striking increase in the condition with more children falling seriously ill than during the first wave of cases in the spring.

My teens are the coronavirus guinea pigs. Sheila Mulrooney Eldred, a health journalist in Minneapolis, wrote about her front-row seat to one of the most-anticipated pediatric trials in history.

Biden barrels ahead

With Donald Trump’s impeachment trial over, President Biden plans to quickly push his agenda, allies say, starting with the passage of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan before moving on to an even bigger agenda that includes infrastructure, immigration, criminal justice reform, climate change and health care.

To kick off the new era in Washington, Mr. Biden is escaping it — embarking on trips to Wisconsin and Michigan to rally support for his agenda.

Tonight in Milwaukee, at 9 Eastern, he will participate in a CNN town hall in which he is expected to tout his proposal to send $1,400 checks to individuals struggling during the pandemic. On Thursday, Mr. Biden will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., to tour a Pfizer plant and meet workers producing the company’s coronavirus vaccine.

Mr. Biden’s first official trips as president are meant to focus on the coronavirus and the economy. Without the spectacle of a constitutional clash, the new president “takes center stage now in a way that the first few weeks didn’t allow,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who served as communications director for President Barack Obama. She said the end of the impeachment trial means that “2021 can finally start.”

Vaccine rollout

The United States is gradually administering more doses every day, now up to an average of about 1.7 million, but the supply is not increasing quickly enough.

In New York City, new data by ZIP code underscores troubling disparities in the city’s vaccination effort.

Lebanon began vaccinating its citizens against Covid-19 on Sunday, offering a rare glimmer of hope in a country suffering badly from overlapping crises.

Colombia is kicking off its vaccine campaign on Wednesday in a rural area to signal that the vaccines will be available beyond major cities.

A South Korean lawmaker said North Korea had tried to steal Covid-19 vaccine and treatment technology by attempting to hack the computer systems of international pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

What else we’re following

Two officials at the Food and Drug Administration said their “flawed” policy had led to a flood of unreliable antibody tests early in the pandemic.

A chaotic vaccine rollout in New York and allegations of a cover-up of nursing home deaths threaten Andrew Cuomo’s self-created image as America’s Covid-19 governor.

Dr. Anthony Fauci was awarded a $1 million prize in Israel for outstanding contributions in public health and “speaking truth to power.”

A Times writer set out to answer the question: When can I hang out at my friend’s house?

A British opera company is helping Covid-19 patients learn to breathe again.

What you’re doing

We are celebrating and extending holidays of any kind. For instance, we created a Valentine’s Day tree by converting our artificial Christmas tree with hearts and Cupids. Next, a St. Patrick’s Day tree, then an April showers and tax-filing freedom day, May Day and Derby Day. This takes time and money to make bows and decorations, but it means the family is involved in celebrating each day and month.

— Linda Neely, Lookout Mountain, Tenn.

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